RAY BREMSER MEMORIAL
COLUMN SEVENTY-FOUR, AUGUST 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 Al Aronowitz)
" 1997 Brenda Frazer)
I don't remember how long it took, but eventually I figured out that I was pregnant. I was totally ignorant about having babies, and had all of the fear ignorance brings. No sex education other than experience. Ray and I had hardly discussed it except he said he couldn't have children. I just thought it was another romantic notion, like being a troubadour, or dying at thirty. We never imagined what our life would be like as a family. Now it seemed as irrelevant as housekeeping. But there it was, my body functions no longer my own. And yet I continued with my current lover, Jack, the trombone player from the big band group. Although I knew that he was getting serious, my attachment to him was almost automatic. The emotions were aroused only indirectly, by way of physical contact. Everything was a need for touch, for comfort. But Jack tried to project some order into my situation. I think he was hoping to save me. I followed him to see his parents in Brooklyn in a daze. He wanted me to break off with Ray and I complied, writing Ray a Dear John letter. It was cruel, but at least the interminable string of guilty letters from prison stopped.
didn't know it yet but I was scared shitless, I didn't know what to do. I
went to my father's house in Alexandria, Virginia, expecting refuge. The
habitual sex was getting painful and even the softer alternatives to penetration
were too tiring. But I was bored and felt trapped in my childhood home. I went
to a jazz club in DC and took up with a bass player. It was fun to be picked up
in my old neighborhood, just south of the Mason Dixon line, by a black man. He
was really nervous about it, and waited in the car for me. We were all over that
car the rest of the night, upside down mostly. My womb was feeling abuse from
all this balling, but no joy.
surprising thing was that my father, like my mother, sympathized with Ray, and.
my mother was very upset with me too for not answering Ray's letters. I
decided to accept my situation, if only temporarily. At least it would be better
than lying on my back with a big belly, feeling trapped like a kid in my
father's house. I went to a doctor for a prenatal exam. He was vague about a
due date, and I was very small. By now it was March and Ray's six month
sentence was almost up. Ray was asking me to get an apartment in New Jersey so
he could get out on parole. I decided to do it for him, even though it would be
a sham. Ironic that New Jersey now wanted me to take responsibility for him
after calling our marriage criminal. My father gave me some money and some
household things, even drove me to New Jersey to get set up in the new
apartment. I'd found a place in Hoboken, in a brick building that could have
once been a factory or a warehouse, a couple of blocks from the Hudson Terminal
and the docks. I was sold on the apartment when the landlord showed me the
kitchen stove which had a side gas burner for heat that I could turn on any time
I wanted. And it was already hooked up. I knew now I would never go without heat
again if I could help it.
wrote Ray "I'll be there," and he wrote back, "Wait for
me." And there, one day in June, looking out the window to the street I saw
him come up from the terminal, pigeons in the air, the sound of boats in the
busy day time traffic on the Hudson. He was unmistakable, even in his new
clothes, sinewy arms, the hands curled into a loose half fist, knuckles forward
as if carrying a brick. I was afraid of him.
then he was there, facing me, it was exactly as though that prison glass were
still between us. "I stopped at my mothers and got rid of the prison suit,
she'd bought me these khakis." I had not even thought of clothes. We
stood there uncertain. Was he angry, was I angry, who was to blame? Till he
said, "Fuck all of this, just come here and kiss me." And so I did.
He told me his mother had
raised the question of whether the baby is his. The glass separation comes back
up, just like in prison. "So here's the way it will be with us," he
said, "I will be working at the condom factory. My mother got the job for
me, Sal her boss is glad to have me. It's not just a cover this time, I?m
going to work and take care of you and the baby. Maybe in a few years I'll be
released from parole. No more trips to NY. It's nice that you got a place so
close to the terminal anyway."
evening the fog rolled in and we could hear the horns of the tugboats. He
borrowed a phonograph from his sister and we listened to music. When I was in
DC, I'd bought a record of New Orleans funeral music, original jazz, sorrow
and joy clearly defined and spiritual. He was turned on by it. I liked it that
he admired my taste in music. "But what about you, Babe?" He asked.
"Who's this other guy. Has he been here at the house?" No answer,
because he had. "Are you in love with him?" And the feelings changed
between us again, just like that, the familiar trust returning, filling a need
that I hadn't even remembered I had while we were separated. "Get rid of
him," he said. And I did.
brought back with him a whole manuscript of poems, and all of them were about
me. There was no blame, it was about our love, the way it had been. "It
kept me sane when I was going crazy worrying about you, when I was in solitary
for a month." He read them to me and the words were like balm on our pain,
"God gave me to Bonnie/ Pilot, Justinian, bondsmen, lawyers/ heaven give me
back!" he read with a choke in his voice.
was no poetic intellectualism. It was the only poetry I'd ever heard in which
there was none. All of the images were immediate and in the language that he and
I had learned together in our months as newlyweds. It was our beautiful poetry.
I knew he was hurt by my infidelity, he didn't blame me. He figured that I was
a victim of the state of New Jersey, as much as he was. The pain and indignity
was theirs, the hope and survival was ours. He'd kept it intact, preserved in
his mind and emotions, treasured it and saved it. And I had refused to listen to
his sadness, refused to read his letters, didn't even know where they were.
"You didn't keep my letters to you?" he asked in amazement. I was
But the poetry picked us up, like music. We began to be elevated with its energy. We'd lie there and he'd talk excitedly about his friends in jail. It was ok in the protection of his arms. "Harold,
. .the secret nights
of love and mayonnaise. . .'
have much time left. But you never can tell when he'll get in trouble. Once he
refused to do something and the guard threatened him. Harold said, "Go ahead,
kill me mutherfucker." Harold's right, you might as well be dead as be stuck
in jail. But he does stuff like that and the time keeps piling up."
told me another jail buddy Nick was on the streets now, but he didn't know
where. Nick was a broody guy, a saxophone player from the reformatory days.
"He's really great. Sounds just like Dexter Gordon." He was
enthusiastic about his jail friends, a loyalty he wanted me to share. He read me
a prose manuscript called House of Indifference, which was about the
death of an inmate, a suicide the officials said. It described a scene where the
victim came back as a ghost to talk to Ray. "How did they do it to
you?" Ray asked. The ghost described the beatings of brutal corrections
officers and finally being hung to die. It was the only way the truth would be
known in those conditions of absolute authority.
The story also described
the secret nights between inmates, of love and mayonnaise dark under the bed.
Perhaps it was reminiscent of Ray's attachment to Stewart in the reformatory.
"And Stewart is due to come out of Bordentown, too, in July." It was
all fresh in his mind again and I had to be loyal, too, for his sake.
were one again with the music, with the poetry in the blue and black nights of
Hoboken. We'd be exiles from our natural place in NY as if by choice. We?d
stay here in Hoboken with its proletariat workers and longshoremen, nothing like
anywhere else. We'd be like Alex Trocchi, a riverboat worker on a garbage
barge writing poetry on the Hudson. Perhaps there were other artists here. There
was a painter's studio a couple of blocks away. Sometimes Ray would stop by
there and bring home a joint. Once he borrowed an album of another opera by Kurt
Weill and Bertold Brecht, The Rise and Fall of the State of Mahagony. The
dark music of despair was as familiar as the Hoboken streets. One has always to
live in the squalor of whatever degenerate age they are born. "Oh show me
the way to the next whiskey bar/ Oh don't ask why, Oh don't ask why/ For I
must find the next whiskey bar/ For if I don't find the next whiskey bar/ I
tell you I must die/ I tell you I must die." And then the whole orchestra
and chorus strikes up in a major mode, "Oh Moon of Alabama/ We now must say
goodbye/ We've lost our dear old Mama/ And must have whiskey Oh you know
why." Ray and I sing along at the top of our voices, crooning like wolves
in a pack.
it wasn't too bad, it would be ok. Just knew what the rules were on the one
hand, and what our needs were on the other. Ok, so we wouldn't go to New York.
Ok, so it wasn't allowed any longer to go to poetry readings and trips to
colleges, no question. So maybe the daytime hours did have to be spent in
figuring out problems of meals, money and security. Still a happiness was
beginning to grow, and we had the night to look forward to it, holding each
other, our love beginning to grow again. In the security of his arms, in the
surety of his love I began to feel safe again, that we could do anything
together. How could I have doubted it?
is with a sense of shock that I begin to write this. Insulated as I am by the
years, by the fact that I have survived, a certain security in being the one to
write about it, a certain strength in taking the pen to finally tell about it. I
can hardly admit that things were beginning to be ok. But worse and harder even
to face, even now, is that that sense of ok was to end as quickly as it had
begun once again to spring up out of the strength of our love, that miracle..
Everything was so fragile. Even though I could see the sunshine on other
buildings as I looked out the kitchen window. Even though summer was in the air
there was always doubt, uncertainty, guilt. My guilt was obvious, because I had
given up on him. As soon as I had lost everything in the swoop of separation.
Love, trust, belief in providence, belief in him and in myself, all gone in a
moment. I had been a victim of despair. His guilt was his irresponsibility, but
could jail resolve that? I couldn't really make him face it. Didn't know how
and didn't care. Oh I felt anger alright, and my anger was apparent in what I
did. But I still couldn't say the words "You did that to me!" And it
was confusing too because it was actually the system that did it to me. But we
were ok now and it was enough for a space of two weeks. And then New Jersey
stepped in again and misfortune came for another visit.
fourth of July had passed with a great crackle of fireworks. The street was busy
with kids lighting matches and running. Then there was quiet, a relief. Ray's
friend Nick showed up at our door with his rich girlfriend Betty. She adored him
and wanted us all to be friends. Life was good for Nick and he wanted us to feel
good too. I guess Ray hadn't told Nick the bad parts about me sleeping around
while he was in jail. Nick treated me as though I was the most special and
sympathetic poet's wife. We spent the day and the evening together and got
really high on some reefer, which we didn't usually have. Ray went out to get
some cigarettes and was back in a few minutes. We continued to smoke and listen
to music. Ray read some poetry, blowing us all away. We were very high and hazy
and that made it all the more traumatic when the police showed up at the door.
first we thought it was the parole people on a check, which would have been bad
enough because we were high and Nick wasn't supposed to be there. They took
Ray away with no explanation. Shock again. And it was one of those times you
really wish you hadn't been high after all.
going on?" I asked. But there was no one there to answer me. They were
gone. The law in its urgency does not pause to give explanations, especially
when they are not quite sure of what they're doing themselves.
the things that had happened before were nothing to this. The misery in New
York, my sense of being abandoned, my abandonment of Ray, were small in
comparison to this. This was the beginning of a real vortex in my life, the
futility of trying to be good. We were in the grip of the law in a very
frightening way---no rights, no innocence and no hope.
not quite. I had not given up on hope, because I was totally in love with Ray
once again and knew that this time there would be no separation, no matter what.
I believed in him. This time I was on Ray's side. I called my parents hoping
they could do something, put up the bail at least. My stepmother worked on
Capitol hill in DC in the office of the congressman from Jersey City. Maybe they
could use their pull. They helped to get him out on bail and got a lawyer for
him, a Mr. Miller. My stepmother assured me that he was the very best and all we
had to do was go through the process the law required and Ray would surely be
cleared of this mistake.
he got out on bail Ray sat down at the typewriter and explained the sequence of
events from his point of view for his lawyer.
"Account of time from waking
up Tuesday morning, 7:30 am, july 5th, until I was arrested, Wednesday morning,
2:30 am, july 8th
"My wife and I rose at 7:30?it was her day to go to the Lying In Hospital in New York City for her weekly examination " she is pregnant and about due at the moment, we had breakfast and about 8 or 8:30 am, left the apartment together?I walked to the Hudson tubes with her and left to return to the apartment?i was back in the apartment by 8:45?I remained in the apartment the entire morning?until 11 am, cleaning up the rooms and unpacking boxes " we had just received several boxes of drapes and sheets and spreads and clothing from my wife's mother and father. At 11 am I took a walk along Washington street, up to sixth and then returned?at noon I left a note for my wife that I had gone to see my sister in jersey city (in the event that she got back before I did, tho we didn't expect her back before 3 or possibly 4 pm.) and I walked up 1st street all the way thru hoboken unto the steps that go up to Franklin street, jersey?I then walked along Franklyn st to sherman avenue, turned left for one block and right on manhattan ave?my sister lives with my mother at 9 manhattan
his side of the story
for a lawyer
avenue?it was 12:30
when I arrived?only my sister was at home?I spoke with her until almost 3 pm
and then returned to my apartment in hoboken by the identical route I had taken
to go to manhattan ave?I arrived at the newark st address at 3:30 pm?in 5 or
10 minutes 2 friends arrived " Nick Lambert and Betty Grund'they said they
had been there waiting " even had called the manhattan ave apartment by
telephone just a little while after I had left and was told that I was on my way
back?I had a six pack of beer, small bottles, so we opened them and waited for
my wife to return from new york and she came in about 3:50.
"At 4:30, Nick and I went
out for another six-pack of small bottle of beer. We went right around the
corner, to 1st street and Garden, the ACE liquor store?we were gone only 4 or
5 minutes. We drank some of this beer and went to sleep until 8 or 8:30 pm,
after which, my wife made some baked macaroni for our supper " we and our
friends ate, Nick alone went out to the beer store again?at 10:40 or 10:45 I
went out, around the corner, to the tavern on Garden street, called ARTIES
tavern, gave the woman bar-keep 3 dimes and asked for a quarter and a nickel for
the cigarette machine. I returned to the apartment " was gone only 4 minutes,
and did not go out again at all until the police arrested me at 2:30 am
Wednesday, july 6.
"During this time my two friends never left " Nick alone only went to the store for the 4 or 5 minutes mentioned?we were all awake and talking and I was reading some Baudelaire and Hart Crane poems to them at the time the police came."
Signed " Ray Bremser
his statement concerning the manner of arrest on July 18th, 1960:
Resume of arrest; RAY BREMSER
" 158 NEWARK STREET " HOBOKEN, N.J.
" 1.. at 2
am, Wednesday morning, july 6th, while in the company of my wife, Brenda, and 2
friends, Nick Lambert & Betty Grund, of Washington D.C., the jersey city
police along with a hoboken policeman came to my apartment and arrested me. The
captain (do not know his name) mentioned that there was a robbery in jersey city
and I was going to go with them to the victim at the medical center to see if he
would identify me. It was mentioned that he had already identified me from a
" 2.. at the medical center a mr. Orlanda was
wakened from his sleep. He had a band-aid sized bandage across his forehead. He
looked at me slowly and after a minutes consideration said "it looks like
him.", after which, he and the captain held a whisper conversation between
themselves for two full minutes. Then I was taken to the corridor and the
captain said "positive identification." I was then told there was an
eye witness yet to be seen.
" 3.. the police drove me to an address (3469) on
Hudson Blvd, at Charles st. (I didn't know where we were, I mentioned, after
seeing the street sign, that I couldn't recall ever having been precisely at
Charles st, and Hudson Blvd in all of my life, tho I was born and always lived
in jersey city.) the captain and another detective left the car and went to
waken the eye-witness, leaving me with a police officer who I later discovered
was supposed to have had also identified the assailant as me, he having been the
policeman who gave chase at the time of the crime which was said to have been
approximately 10:30 pm, Tuesday evening, july 5th.
I engaged myself in telling the police officer what I was doing at the
time of the robbery and in whose company I was, while the other two men got the
eye witness. They came down (I could see, tho we were parked across the street,
there was a glass-windowed door on the building behind which was a sort of
vestibule.) " they came down and stood talking for a full 4 or 5 minutes in
the vestibule. Finally the captain's assistant came out and across to the car
to get me?he made me wear the jacket of a suit (blue-gray, a prison suit I was
given upon being paroled from the state prison two weeks prior, on june 21?I
was also made to wear the jacket during the first identification in the medical
center.) " he then took me slightly circularly across the street and when we
were about 12 to 14 feet of the vestibule door, stopped me and had me stand
still. All during this time the eye witness was not to be seen, as he was
standing behind the wooden portion of the door and the wall to which it was
hinged. Finally, for an actual brief second, a head (apparently the
eye-witness's) peeped out at me " then immediately withdrew. I was brought
right back to the car and we waited a full two minutes for the captain who
continued talking to the eye-witness. When he returned he said "positive
identification.", and we drove to the 7th precinct.
" 4.. at the 7th precinct I was made on two
occasions, following one upon the other almost within 5 minutes, to stand among
3 other men, all short and attaired in white shirts?I was still made to wear
the blue-gray jacket and, in fact, the pants these times also. I saw nobody else
and was later only told that there were 2 other witnesses who identified me.
" 5.. I was next taken into a room and statements
were made out by 2 other detectives, I don't know their names, except that
niether one had the name of the detective in which the statements were made (Muldoon,
I believe.) I was asked questions in these statements pertaining basically to
the previous events of the investigation?ie; did the police take me to the
medical center? Yes. Did I see a mr orlanda? Yes, etc., and also asked me if I
committed the crime I was alleged to have done, which I answered no to. I also
had them include in the context of one of the statements that I was a parolee
because I had a few times asked them to call my parole officer immediately and
tell him I had been arrested " not to notify him would be constituted a
violation and I wasn't sure they would do as I asked or not, so thought it
would be wise to have the fact that I let them know I was a parolee in writing
in the event that I might later have to refer back to it. After the statements
were made out, and they were brief, one a page and a quarter, the other one page
alone?I was permitted to telephone my mother and then taken to the city prison
upstairs and remanded there.
" 6.. At court the same morning, Wednesday, at 10
am, the police asked for a postponement, mentioning that the victim may have a
possible fractured skull and they needed to have him in court " the
preliminary hearing was postponed until Monday, july 11?before which, on the
same day, Wednesday, july 6th, and after talking to my parole officer, mr.
Callahan, at 2 pm, I was taken back to the medical center handcuffed and by two
entirely different detectives, (from the 6th, I believe) and brought before the
victim again, who was in the middle of a visit from a relative?hardly had I
stepped into the ward when he almost violently pointed a finger at me and
exclaimed "that's him'that's him'turn around, that's him." I
was made to wait in the corridor again immediately after that with one of the 2
detectives while the other stayed with the victim for a full 15 minutes. Then we
were returned to the city prison and nothing in the way of any sort of
investigation occurred at all after that. There was never any mention of a
weapon " there was no mention of money or loot or anything at all except that
I had been chased by the police officer mentioned above, and that I had been
originally identified by a photo " the supposed facts behind the initial
identification, as well as I could tell, by the story in the Hudson Dispatch
about it, is that a detective called Luck seemed to think the method and
description struck a familiar bell, so he got out, specifically, my photo from
the mug-book and this photo alone was shown to the victim.
"In court, Monday morning,
july 11, (and in your presence, Mr. Miller), the victim said that I was the man
who had robbed and assaulted him, and produced a tied box in which, he said, was
the bottle i was alleged to have struck him with " i thought to myself how
come nothing of fingerprints was ever mentioned!
- Ray Bremser
I wasn't the only one to be considered in the situation even though I felt
that my needs were the greatest. Ray refused to use the alibi that Nick had been
there with us. It would mean that both he and Nick would go back to jail for
parole violation. I understood that it was loyalty among jail buddies as much as
fear of the separation that another parole violation would bring on. But just
being implicated in a crime was a parole violation and so we were all in trouble
anyway. He explains to me that maybe things will work out and there's no
reason to involve anyone else, meaning Nick. "But what about me, I was
there, doesn't that count?" "No, a wife's testimony is expected,
assumed, to be supportive of her husband, whether she tells the truth or not. It
is assumed that she will lie." Nor would Betty come forward because then
Nick would be endangered.
no good," Ray said, with a very depressed tone of voice. "They're
going to try and pin this one on me. I heard from some of the guys that Sgt.
Love has it in for me because I've tried to make it as a poet. He thinks that
poetry is unwholesome."
there's no way they can do that. All we have to do is tell the truth, and it
will be ok." I repeat what my stepmother told me. I wanted to have a say
and that's all I could think of.
So, was this the role of
a poet's wife? Was I learning how to behave, to tell right from wrong? Was it
wrong for an ex-con to have a wife, or to talk about marijuana on the radio, or
to step across the river where one could breathe free in the city. Was it really
wrong to have jail friends in your house if it was the only friend you had at
the moment? No. Right and wrong were definitely still evading me. Was it right
to take away my only hope, to introduce me to despair like some horrible
addictive drug that I could never get free of?
I opened to Ray
completely for my only hope was in his poet nature. The wisdom of his heart had
pulled him through before, pulled him through the worst of darkness and despair.
And it would pull me through too. Maybe it was a crazy concept of optimism, an
unauthorized strength but it would have to do.
I wish now for some language of romance to discuss the following months. If only
there were some lilt to my voice or pleasant idiom to soften the discomfort of
that time. We'd discovered that there was no use trying to plan a normal life.
It wasn't as if I had no plan for the birth of my child, I did. I wanted to
follow the lead of Hettie Jones who had her children at the New York Lying
Hospital which was way ahead of its times. They would help me be a modern
But all of our plans for
normalcy and parenthood were pre-empted by the new suggestion of guilt. The
lawyer that my stepmother had provided was advising Ray to plead guilty to the
new charge and try to get a reduced sentence. This was in spite of Ray's clear
statements that he was not guilty. Common sense would show it was impossible for
him to have been at the scene of the crime, which took place in Jersey City, two
miles or more away from where we'd been all that night, at home in Hoboken.
None of us had a car or drove, we walked everywhere. The quickest way to Jersey
City was up the hundred steps at the palisade. Ray never ran, I have never once
seen him even walk fast, but he would have to be really running to get one way to
Jersey City in the twenty minutes that he was gone from the house for
cigarettes. And then he would have had to get back too. And if in anyone's
wildest imaginings that were true, wouldn't I at least have noticed he was out
of breath? If he took a bus or a cab maybe, but that was improbable. He would
have had to call a cab or wait for a bus, and even with a bus schedule the
timing would be miraculous. The whole idea was ridiculous, but who would believe
me? Ray had not had a court hearing yet, but the attitude of his lawyer was
of going to the Lying In Hospital for the birth as planned when I showed signs
of labor, Ray took me to the nearest charity hospital in Jersey City. I had a
very rough time and was whimpering in pain from the beginning. The hospital was
crowded and I spent most of my early labor on a stretcher cot on wheels in the
hospital corridor. After a time there were other women on cots also waiting
their time to give birth. No one attended me and as I began to experience longer
contractions I cried out instead of whimpering. Perhaps it was as much fear as
pain, I had no idea of what to expect, or if I could endure what was coming. A
doctor told me to shut up, and when that didn't work he punched me in the
face. I was too humiliated to make another sound. That was when I started into
hard labor and I don't remember any more after that, perhaps they drugged me.
was not conscious of the child being born, nor was I allowed to see her when I
awoke except through a nursery window. It seemed that I was doomed to always be
separated from my loved ones by plate glass. The doctors said that she was
premature. I knew in my heart that wasn't true and when they asked me to name
her for the birth certificate I told them Rachel. In my mind it stood for
Ray's Child, for I knew she was. Certainly Ray's mother and Ray himself had
reason for doubts but considering the circumstances and my poor health care for
the past year I didn't want to give in to them.
I was not allowed to touch Rachel or nurse her, and my breasts hurt. They told me the pain would go away and did not show me how to pump out the milk. With my small breasts I thought this was just another failure on my part. She would be a bottle baby, but not by my decision. My hormones ached almost as much as my breasts as I sat on my hospital bed and listened to the stories of the
around me. I wanted to be doing for my child. I didn't know what but I would
learn. I was sent home after several days but had to leave her behind in the
care of the nurses. I was sick most of the time. Apparently the placenta had not
all been cleared out and I had a horrible infection. I was in pain and my body
smelled disgusting. Ray and I were unable to enjoy the sex that we'd so long
a month they told me that I could take Rachel home. By then I was thoroughly
jealous of the nurses who were obviously attached to her and intimidated by the
sterile, quiet atmosphere in the nursery where she was kept. I felt incapable of
duplicating that in our apartment, as much as we wanted to be successful at
domestic things. Our only possessions were the things my father gave me, some
old drapes and stuff he couldn't use anymore. Given time and creativity they
might have been useful, but my mind was largely on our troubled relationship and
uncertain future. It was a bad situation in which to start my new motherhood.
To make things worse
Rachel was a colicky baby. She cried all the time, day and night, poor thing.
And I spent most of my hours walking with her and trying somehow to ease the
frustration that nothing I did had any effect. Ray was not patient and became
angry at me when she cried in the night. Everything pointed at my lack of
motherly abilities. It was true, I wasn't good at it. I missed Ray terribly,
missed him at night in the hours I had to care for the baby, missed him during
the day when he went to work. Without knowing it I missed the help that Ray
might have been, if only he had fewer troubles on his mind. The situation was
bad and it seemed that each of us, Ray, Rachel and most of all me had problems
that made it worse. Just imagine the carefree and romantic way we'd started
our relationship. That was the only ideal we could understand and that dream
world was long gone. I kept waiting for it to return.
came to visit us directly from Bordentown. Suddenly there were more
relationships in the house. And none of them was entirely clear. If Stewart had
been a woman I could have fought against him with some justification. But as he
was a man how could I protest? Besides
there was the jail loyalty too, if only because of that I tried to accept him
without jealousy or suspicion. I certainly didn't think of Ray as a homosexual
person, and they weren't doing anything to make me suspect.
But Stewart had been his lover in the old days and just Ray wanting to
help him was enough to put me on guard.
slept in the living room. It was late summer and still hot so all the windows
were open without curtains, the ones to the north facing out over old factory
yards, now abandoned. The first morning after Stewart arrived Ray took me into
the living room where Stewart was sleeping. "Look there at how he sleeps,
on his back with his arms open, innocent and trusting." When he said the
word innocent I had to cringe a little. No one had called me that lately. His
blond hair fell over his beautiful boy face and I had to wonder if he was really
stayed with us for the remainder of the month. As happens in close quarters the
relations worsened and I began to think of Stewart as another trial from God.
Where Ray saw all sweetness, I was paranoid. I began to think that Stewart was
trying to insinuate himself between us. I imagined a darkness in him, a
depravity directed toward me which was invisible to Ray. One incident brought
things to a climax---but before that I did a stupid thing. I was very tired and
fell asleep on the couch one day with a cigarette still burning and set the
mattress on fire. Ray was furious with me and I was beginning to be bowed down
with repeated failure. I assumed that Stewart enjoyed my humiliation and I let
myself think of him as an enemy. The final disagreement between us all was over
a hash pipe. It was a nice one that Irving had given me in New York. When it
disappeared Ray was inclined to blame me and my messy housekeeping. It was one
more thing that I couldn't really bear, but there was no help for it. The pipe
didn't turn up as expected under the couch cushions or in the papers strewn
around. It was lost for several days. Then one day Stewart went out for awhile.
We opened the little metal cash box he kept with his things, always locked. I
don't know if it was Ray's normal inquisitiveness and dislike of secrets, or
if I put him up to it. Anyway, Ray jimmied the lock and there in the box was the
lost hash pipe. Stewart left shortly after that and I never saw him again. I
don't know if I did him wrong by not helping his difficult situation, or even
how I could. After all, Ray was the only person he knew and cared for, and he
undoubtedly would have many troubles adjusting to life outside the reformatory
after several years there. But
still I was relieved to see him go.
was coming, and although I had Ray with me through the dreary months of autumn
we were always on edge. The court hearing was set for December and the strain
was intense. Ray expected the worse and I think he was already preparing for it.
He'd heard from Nick who had absconded from parole and was now living in
Mexico. No possibility of either he or Betty testifying now. Nick wrote Ray
wonderful things about Vera Cruz, where he and Betty had a little house. He said
that the landlord was the chief of police and kept them in constant supply of
large quantities of reefer. Life was good. He invited us to come to
I was shocked that Ray was seriously considering going to Mexico. This would truly be a criminal act, not only to abscond from parole, but to jump bail as well and refuse to face charges. It frightened me as much as Ray's insistence that New Jersey was out to get him. But when he was indicted at the court hearing and a date was set for the trial in January, I began to soften. Ray had been right all along. I finally gave in to the promise of relief from this tension, from doubt and the threat of separation, even from the cold of winter. Mexico would be good for the baby. We made up our minds. Mexico would be our dream. ##
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